CEDAR RAPIDS — Partnerships are paramount in Iowa’s pursuit of growth and prosperity, according to Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen, which is why her school is forging more of them.
About four months shy of her year anniversary as the head of ISU, Wintersteen spoke Monday to the Downtown Rotary Club of Cedar Rapids about a 3-year-old “public-public-private” partnership between ISU and the city in support of agricultural, food and bioprocessing companies — listing it as one example of how the university plans to make headway in helping and retaining both businesses and students in Iowa.
“This is what moves Iowa forward,” said Wintersteen, promoted last Nov. 20 to president from dean of ISU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “This is what creates opportunities. It’s coming together to address priorities, address challenges and to really make a difference in what the future for this state can be.”
Within a week, ISU will start advertising to again fill the role of liaison with the city of Cedar Rapids, aimed at connecting the community with the research power in Ames.
Former liaison David Freeman left last year. Kevin Keener, professor in food science and human nutrition and director of ISU’s Center for Crops Utilization Research, has been serving as liaison in the interim.
Wintersteen highlighted her institution’s mounting partnerships with the federal government, other research universities and local industries — such as Rockwell Collins — as they expand into the growing ISU Research Park.
“We know that here in September, Rockwell Collins will be announcing they will be at the research park,” she said.
Businesses like Rockwell — Cedar Rapids’ largest employer, which Connecticut-based United Technology Corp. is on track to acquire for about $30 billion later this year — easily could decide to go elsewhere, Wintersteen said.
Right now, the plan is to combine Rockwell with a UTC aerospace subsidiary to form a new Collins Aerospace Systems division.
The division is expected to have about 70,000 employees — where Rockwell has about 30,000 — and executive offices in Palm Beach County, Fla. Cedar Rapids would be home to one of two internal business units, officials have said.
“It’s just so easy for some of those businesses to decide, ‘Why stay in Iowa?’” Wintersteen said. “Well, I think we have to have an environment that is supportive of these kinds of companies so that they know that they can have the talent they need to drive their business. I think the ISU research park is one of the places that can happen.”
In highlighting ISU’s federal partnerships, Wintersteen touted a recent announcement the university will lead a new national institute focused on addressing antimicrobial resistance — or the growing global concern about bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
About 2 million Americans become infected with resistant strains annually and 23,000 people die as a direct result. More die from related complications, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The new Institute for Antimicrobial Resistance Research and Education builds on a partnership between ISU, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the universities of Nebraska and Iowa and the Mayo Clinic.
Initiatives focused on bringing students to Iowa, providing them research and training opportunities and then keeping them here benefit this state most, according to Wintersteen.
She pointed to entrepreneurial support as one way to do all that.
“We are now saying to all of our students, if you’d like to be involved as an entrepreneur, if you’d like to learn what it means to have an entrepreneurial mind-set, then come and be a part of what we’re going to do,” she said. “Across every college, whether it’s the College of Human Sciences, the College of Engineering, of Design, of Business, entrepreneurship is being lifted up out of that big bucket of experiences that students can chose to have at Iowa State, and we’re saying you can learn to be an entrepreneur.”
Launch a business and grow it here, Wintersteen said.
“We believe this will make a tremendous difference in Iowa,” she said “We believe Iowa State can be branded for being the university that is training entrepreneurship.”
She acknowledged one of the biggest challenges facing her university is the state’s disinvestment in higher education, which she said makes collaboration even more important. Because of recent funding cuts and lower-than-requested appropriations, Wintersteen acknowledged tuition likely will continue to climb as enrollment levels off.
“But (tuition) is lower than any of our peers that we measure ourselves by, based upon our academic and research and extension accomplishments,” she said. “So we are a great value.”
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